If you thought the Orioles' sobering September might slacken demand for tickets, better think again.
With projected attendance of about 3.65 million fans for 1993, the Orioles are on their way to a third straight year of record home attendance. And the future, if possible, appears even more crowded.
The team already has put a limit on season tickets, cutting off sales earlier this year at 27,500. Now, club officials are trying to deal with the thousands of fans who gladly would become regular customers at Camden Yards, if the Orioles would let them.
Fans who want to buy season tickets are being added to the club's first waiting list -- the Orioles' "On-Deck Circle." They stay there until a season-ticket customer cancels an order, putting those seats back into circulation.
Joining the On-Deck Circle can be exciting, especially for collectors of Orioles envelopes. Members receive occasional letters from the club updating them with ticket developments and other team news. But for those on the list, there is no assurance that next season will bring any seats.
Relying on word of mouth -- and an occasional scoreboard message -- the Orioles have built their On-Deck Circle to about 8,800 names. That's up sharply from April, when the list began with just more than 6,000 fans.
Vince Dunbar, director of sales for the Orioles, has been watching the list grow to monster proportions. With the numbers so high, he says he cannot predict when those at the back of the list finally may get a crack at season tickets.
"If you're looking just at next year, the odds for getting seasotickets may not be that good," Dunbar said. "But the chances improve when you are planning for future years."
One reason for the popularity of the waiting list may be its cost: zero. Fans who want to join the list simply write to the Orioles. In a few weeks, they receive a ticket preference letter, asking them to choose the type of seat (box or reserved) and number of games (partial or full-season plan) they most would like. The Orioles ticket office loads the information into its computer.
Meanwhile, the Orioles will be contacting their current season-ticket buyers shortly after the World Series, inviting them to renew their tickets by mid-December. When customers drop out, their tickets may be offered to others who have requested upgrades in their locations, Dunbar said. The seats that are freed up then are set aside for a customer on the waiting list, who would be offered the chance to buy tickets, probably in mid-February.
The Orioles did not launch into the idea of a waiting list haphazardly. Dunbar, whose job with the Orioles seems to lTC require less selling of tickets than explaining why they no longer are available, says the club wants to treat its customers with courtesy, even when that means saying no to a ticket order.
"The intent is to make people feel good about what we're doing out here and to keep them interested in staying with us," Dunbar said.
The Orioles are one of the few teams that have put a lid on season-ticket sales -- the Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Dodgers are believed to be the only others. The Blue Jays also have a waiting list of more than 12,000, but only accept requests for full-season orders.
In other pro sports, waiting lists are not uncommon. Washington Redskins fans are familiar with that team's formidable list, which stands at about 48,000.
Customers on that list have been known to wait 20 years or more for a shot at RFK Stadium tickets.
The NBA's Charlotte Hornets capped their season-ticket sales at just more than 21,000 seats. But they offer a spot on their waiting list to any fan willing to post a $100, non-refundable, per-seat deposit.
In return, the team offers hope and a bag of goodies, including a subscription to a monthly Hornets magazine, a team cap and T-shirt and complimentary tickets to a minor-league baseball game.
Orioles season-ticket sales since 1983, with full-season and mini-plan totals (mini-plan totals are the numbers of such plans that add up to a full season):
Year .. .. .. Full .. .. Mini .. .. .. Totals
1983 .. .. ..6,051 .. .. - .. .. .. .. 6,051
1984 .. .. ..8,100 .. ..3,500 .. .. ..11,600
1985 .. .. ..8,500 .. ..3,200 .. .. ..11,700
1986 .. .. ..8,309 .. ..2,845 .. .. ..11,154
1987 .. .. ..8,100 .. ..2,412 .. .. ..10,512
1988 .. .. ..7,922 .. ..2,160 .. .. ..10,082
1989 .. .. ..8,176 .. ..2,673 .. .. ..10,849
1990 .. .. ..10,591.. ..4,433 .. .. ..15,024
.. .. ..11,500.. ..6,000 .. .. ..17,500
.. .. ..16,290 .. 8,711 .. .. ..25,001
1993 .. .. ..18,647.. ..8,853 .. .. ..27,500